This nominated short may not break the mold, but hits you right in the feels.
Normally we cover the Oscar short films in one block. This year, because the ceremony is happening so early, we won’t be able to wait for ShortsTV. Luckily, this year most of the shorts are available online. We start with Kitbull, the year’s requisite Pixar offering.
I’m of two minds on Kitbull. While watching the majority of it, I felt that the animated short was overly simplistic and generic. A cat and a dog become friends. Not a terribly new concept. By the end, however, it was sweet and earnest enough to slip past the critic in me and make me want to hug my awful cats and questionably good doggo.
A kitten who calls a junkyard home awakens to find a new neighbor: a big old pitbull. Despite misgivings, the skittish cat learns to accept his big yard mate, and to eventually help him out of a jam.
Tale as Old As Time.
Unlikely animal friends used to be one of Disney’s go-to classics. The Fox and the Hound. Oliver and Company. The Jungle Book, if you want to be honest. It’s a classic bit.
The problem with tried and true stories is that you need to bring something fresh to them. Kitbull struggles here. There’s no real wrinkle to the proceedings. Cat meets dog. Cat avoids dog. Dog helps cat. Cat befriends dog.
The depiction of the cat and dog are readily relatable. There’s some nice, telling details to their behaviors that any cat or dog owner will recognize. Just like the story, though, the recognition can feel at times due to the generic nature of the story and characters.
Everything in the story is really uncomplicated. Even the animation style is fairly unremarkable and simplistic. The cat is a cat. The dog is a dog of the “gentle giant” ilk. The dog owners are scumbags who fight dogs. It’s kind of lazy and stereotypical. It’s a pit bull, ergo there must be dog fights. Why else have a pit bull?
Um, cause they’re dogs?
My pit bull-mix has a big canned-ham head and a droopy face. That’s like 90% of the reason we have him. The other 10% certainly isn’t to pit fight him. He scares himself with his own farts. Don’t believe the stereotypes.
Warm, Fluffy Center.
If you get past how really generic the story and plot elements are, Kitbull will happily play your heartstrings like a Sarah McLachlan ad. Sad doggos with crappy owners will push my buttons every time. So will kittens being kittens. When they wind up a gentle new owner (because of course they do!) it really choked me up. I guess you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, if that wheel goes straight to your heart every time.
Oscar Prospects: Better than average. Oscar voters tend to treat animated film as the “kid stuff” category. That’s why fluff wins nine times out of ten. Looking at the list of short-listed films, there were no shortage of tough, complicated films out there. That this confection made it past them has me thinking that Oscar voters are happy to reward heartwarming kitsch.